My family was small. I was an only child, and our celebrations and holidays were spent with my parents and grandparents. As our houses were only about ten miles apart, travel was easy, even during snow storms. Sometimes my favorite uncle (whom I always called “Unkie”) would travel down from Maine to be with us. Having him there made the holidays extra fun. He loved to tell jokes and stories, and I remember many Thanksgivings when we would be roaring with laughter during dessert.
I used to envy classmates of mine who had brothers and sisters and lots of relatives. But I cherished our holiday traditions, small as they were. My grandmother (whom we all called “Ba”) was in her glory making the Thanksgiving feast. My mom would always handle some of the “sides” such as stuffed celery, cranberry sauce, and her famous light and fluffy homemade Parker House Rolls.
The turkey was always huge, filled with Ba’s delicious stuffing. There were homemade pickles, caramelized onions, mashed potatoes with Ba’s wonderful rich gravy, buttery squash, and always a fabulous dessert.
Afterwards, the adults would have another cup of coffee and smoke cigarettes at the table. As I hated the smell of them, I would usually finish my dessert in the parlor, and listen to their talk until I got drowsy.
Although we weren’t a very religious family, we always said grace at the table. But just having that tradition meant something to us all. I loved to hear my grandparents talk, especially about “the old days.” Listening to them was like having an endless story spoken aloud.
My grandparents raised my dad and his sister during the Depression. Often I would get Ba to talk about how she made food “stretch” during those lean times. They grew vegetables and fruit, and they had chickens for meat and eggs and a goat for milk and good company. I don’t remember his name, but Ba used to put a cigarette in her mouth, and the goat would put his front hooves on her shoulders, and nip the cigarette gently out of her mouth.
When you think about it, how lovely it is to spend a day with family and friends, enjoying each other’s company over a good meal. It has become a sweet habit in our family to have each person at the table say what they are grateful for. It’s especially fun to hear our granddaughters chime in about what they are grateful for. Last year it was “God” from Ava and “turkey” from Juliette.
It’s all about what we are thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!